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How digital document ecosystem is transforming the face of schools: Adobe

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Most of us have learned to value the benefits of remote working during the past couple of years, leading to an increased number of people globally adopting a tech-first approach in everything they do. Therefore, the education system has also started to evolve with processes pivoting to technology in this digital-first era. For instance, it would be much quicker to e-sign and transmit a PDF than to sign, scan and e-mail a physical form. In fact, collaborating and working on a single shared digital document has only made it easier and hassle-free for students, parents, professors, and administrators, thus, encouraging the adoption of a digital workflow ecosystem.

Students are better prepared for the 21st-century life in paperless classrooms, and they are ready for the implementation of a paperless digital future. Therefore, the educators at both the K–12 and higher education levels are transitioning to electronic permission forms to confirm parental consent for students’ participation in a variety of activities, including field trips, sports, surveys, as well as in emergency situations where teachers and administrators may need to make student health decisions without a parent present This change is pacing at an exacerbated rate owing to time-consuming nature of processing conventional paper forms, and to minimize the instances of error-proneness. In fact, a 2021 Hotwire survey reveals that 33 percent of K-12 schools are converting paper forms to digital ones. That percentage is even higher at colleges and universities. Most admins cite “easier access to information” as the primary reason behind this transformation — but in practical terms, many educators say they’re simply tired of dealing with paper consent forms, which often get lost or misplaced in transit — and frequently come back incompletely filled, unsigned, or too late to be useful for an intended activity or an unplanned emergency.

Consent forms with electronic signatures are a significant improvement in documentation categories. They can be traced at every stage of their lifecycle and are simple to transmit and fill out electronically. To make the process easier for parents, forms can even be delivered with pre-filled fields and built-in reminders in programmes like Adobe Acrobat Sign. Additionally, built-in digital signature technology reduces the risk of document signing fraud by confirming the identity of each signer. Additionally, admins may process hundreds or even thousands of digital permission forms in just a few minutes thanks to the ability to return them instantaneously and automatically to the sender after completion.

Most institutions send out numerous parental permission forms over the course of a school year — but those forms don’t always come back in time; or sometimes at all. Students often lose the forms they’re sent home with or forget to pass these forms along to their parents. Parents, in turn, may misplace the forms, or fill them out incompletely, or forget to sign them. Even properly signed and completed forms often get lost on the way back to the school — causing students to be excluded from sports and field trips, or even denied on-site medical treatment.

As a result, digital parent consent forms are far more likely to get completed and signed in a timely manner. For example, compare the traditional paper form process against a modern electronic form process in Adobe Acrobat Sign. As soon as a teacher creates a form in Acrobat, they can share the form right within Acrobat Sign, which automatically tracks each recipient’s interactions with the form, and provides up-to-the-minute info on which parents still need to complete it. The teacher can then personally follow up with those parents — or can even provide real-time guidance within the app itself, to ensure that every consent form gets filled and signed on time.

E-signed consent forms provide enhanced security and privacy

Another huge cause of aggravation is getting parents to sign traditional paper forms but possibility of parents to fill out a form correctly yet forget to sign it. Even a properly signed form may get smudged or torn. What’s worse, some students may imitate their parents’ handwriting to fake their signatures, creating fake parental “approvals” for activities their parents are unaware of.

A lack of security around parental consent forms can be a serious legal issue for schools, since some forms include personally identifiable information (PII) that could be used to identify, locate or contact a student — including their full name, address, or social security number. Given these concerns, it’s easy to understand why 25 percent of educators at both the K-12 and higher-ed levels have transitioned from “wet” paper signatures to electronic signing, on parental consent forms as well as other potentially sensitive documents. In contrast to a paper form, which can potentially display a student’s PII to anyone who opens a filing cabinet or glances at someone else’s inbox, a PDF consent form keeps each student’s PII private and secure, viewable only by people who’ve been granted access to the file in question. Whether digital forms are stored on a local hard drive, or in a digital filing cabinet like Adobe Creative Cloud, permission levels for each of those files can be set for specific users — safeguarding students’ personal details by making sure they’re only viewable and shareable by parents and authorized personnel.

Digitizing and managing parental permission forms is simple

Converting a paper consent form to a digital one is much quicker and simpler than you might expect — in fact, any educator can do it in minutes with the help of some handy mobile apps. Many teachers and admins start with Adobe Scan, which uses any iOS or Android device’s onboard camera to convert paper worksheets to multi-page PDF files that can be opened in Acrobat. There, Adobe’s Sensei AI technology can automatically populate a digital form with dynamic text boxes, drop-down fields, multi-selection menus, and custom response fields. These PDFs can then be shared right within Acrobat, which provides built-in tracking and real-time updates for every form and integrates seamlessly with Acrobat Sign to collect and validate each parent’s e-signature.

In fact, research shows that educators who automate their form processes in this way can increase transaction speeds by 30%, improve compliance by 25%, and reduce errors by up to 85%, dramatically enhancing the speed, security, consistency, and convenience of their schools’ document processes.

In conclusion, replacing paper processes with electronic ones saves significant time, money and makes it an environmentally good choice because they prevent trees from being arbitrarily felled for paper production. Paperless classrooms might lessen the unintentional strewn-about of torn papers. Consequently, it is a great effort to preserve nature.

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